Covid-19: Herd immunity cannot be achieved in 2021, WHO chief scientist

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on January 12, 2021

Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organisation   -  REUTERS

The world will not be able to achieve herd immunity against the novel coronavirus despite the vaccine rollout, said Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist at the World Health Organization, on Monday, as per media reports.

Herd immunity is achieved when most of a population becomes immune to disease through vaccinations or the mass spread of disease.

Swaminathan said during a press brief: “Even as vaccines start protecting the most vulnerable, we’re not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021. “Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world.”

Swaminathan further urged people to adhere to Covid-19 protocols as the pandemic is far from over.

“The vaccines are going to come and go to all countries. But meanwhile, we mustn’t forget that there are measures that work...It is really important to remind people, both the governments and individuals of the responsibilities and measures that we continue to need to practice, well for the rest of the year at least,” she said.

Swaminathan appreciated drug developers’ efforts to develop vaccines against coronavirus in such a short time.

According to previous reports, researchers have speculated that a vaccination rate of about 70 per cent is needed for developing herd immunity.

Another research on herd immunity carried out by researchers at the University of Texas, and The Santa Fe Institute has claimed that the threshold of such immunity is as high as 60-80 per cent.

WHO’s recent statement comes in the wake of the new strain of the virus circulating especially in South Africa and England. However, WHO believes that the unprecedented spike in cases was due to people socializing rather than the new variants.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s the technical lead on Covid-19 said during the media brief, as cited in the Scroll report: “We lost the battle because we changed our mixing patterns over the summer, into the fall and especially around Christmas and the new year. That has had a direct impact on the exponential growth that you have seen in many countries.”

Published on January 12, 2021

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